Trump heads to Pittsburgh in wake of synagogue massacre

7 months 3 weeks 3 days ago Monday, October 29 2018 Oct 29, 2018 Monday, October 29, 2018 2:00:07 PM CDT October 29, 2018 in News
By: Betsy Klein and Maegan Vazquez, CNN

(CNN) - President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump will travel to Pittsburgh on Tuesday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Monday.

She called the "heinous killing" at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh "a chilling act of mass murder" and an "act of hatred," adding that anti-Semitism is a "plague to humanity" and something that all Americans "have a duty to confront."

The mass killing at a Pittsburgh synagogue was the deadliest anti-Semitic incident in US history. A heavily armed man burst in on a Jewish religious ceremony and killed 11 people before telling a law enforcement officer "I just want to kill Jews" after a week that was heavy with other acts of extremist violence motivated by politics.

"The American people reject hatred, bigotry, prejudice and violence," she said during the first White House press briefing in 26 days.

Sanders also said that the President wants to go to Pittsburgh to "show support," adding that the Tree of Life rabbi "said that he is welcome" there, despite calls from some groups for him not to travel to Pittsburgh.

Sanders noted that the President -- whose daughter, son-in-law, and three grandchildren are Jewish -- "adores" and "cherishes" the Jewish community, her voice breaking up at times.

Sanders also defended Trump's rhetoric in the wake of the Pittsburgh attack and the bomb mailings last week.

"In moments when our country is hurting like we've seen in the last several days, to find ways to bring our country together and we've seen him do exactly that," she said. "However, the President is going to continue to draw contrasts, particularly as we go into the final days of the election, the differences between the two parties, particularly on policy differences, you'll continue to see him make those contrasts."

Sanders also offered a pointed critique to the media for suggesting Trump's rhetoric was part of what influenced the attackers.

"The very first thing he did was condemn the attacks, both in Pittsburgh and the pipe bombs. The very first thing the media did was blame the President and make him responsible for these ridiculous acts," she said. "That is outrageous, that that would be the very first reaction of so many people across this country. The only person responsible for carrying out either of these acts were the individuals who carried them out."

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